Cubs get Craig Kimbrel for bargain

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Last night’s news that the Cubs got Craig Kimbrel has big implications for the 2019 NL Central race. The Cubs and Brewers seem poised to fight it out all year long and the Cubs — whose bullpen has been beset with injuries — are making a significant improvement in landing one of the most dominant closers of the past decade. The baseball calculus is pretty clear here. The Cubs got better.

The Cubs got better pretty dang cheaply, too. They’ll pay Kimbrel $10 million in 2019, and $16 million over each of the next two seasons. Even the sometimes shaky Kimbrel we saw late last season is worth that kind of risk. It’s simply not major money for a pitcher of his caliber in this day and age. Heck, he’s making less than new teammate Tyler Chatwood is in 2019 and, over the course of their respective three-year contracts, Kimbrel will only make $5 million more in total. Even if you didn’t pro-rate his 2019 salary and paid him $16 million, he’d be only the seventh-highest paid reliever in the game.

There are a lot of reasons for that, of course. Kimbrel was reported to be asking for a monster contract last offseason and, while all such reports must be taken with a grain of salt — teams love to portray free agents as unreasonable to justify a lack of interest to fans and free agents love to portray teams as cheap to put pressure on teams to sign them — that likely scared some suitors away. He had draft pick compensation tied to him until this past Monday, too.

Still, this deal is pretty team-friendly, even with those considerations attached. While the reported $100 million Kimbrel was allegedly asking for last winter seemed out of line, most experts were projecting deals north of $60 million for Kimbrel. Most experts also figured on a four or five year deal for the guy. In no event did anyone think he’d get less than what the Rockies gave Wade Davis before the 2018 season. Davis, while excellent, did not have the track record Kimbrel had and got a three-year, $52M deal. And that was despite the fact that he, unlike Kimbrel as of this week, had a qualifying offer attached to him. You’d think Davis’ deal would’ve been the floor, but nope.

I have to think that if Kimbrel is anywhere close to his usual self for the rest of the year that he couldn’t gone back out on the market this winter and done better between 2020-21 than he’ll do under this deal. Still, it’s hard to blame him for not wanting to endure even the chance of another seven months in limbo like he’s just finishing, so Kimbrel trading some dollars for some security in terms of years is hard to knock.

Free agent slugger José Abreu signs 3-year, $58.5M deal with Astros

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HOUSTON — Jose Abreu and the World Series champion Astros agreed to a three-year, $58.5 million contract, adding another powerful bat to Houston’s lineup.

Abreu, the 2020 AL MVP, gets $19.5 million in each of the next three seasons.

He spent his first nine major league seasons with the Chicago White Sox. The first baseman became a free agent after batting .304 with 15 home runs, 75 RBIs and an .824 OPS this year.

With the Astros, he replaces Yuli Gurriel at first base in a batting order that also features All-Star sluggers Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker.

Gurriel became a free agent after Houston defeated the Philadelphia Phillies this month for its second World Series championship.

The 35-year-old Abreu becomes the biggest free agent to switch teams so far this offseason. Born in Cuba, the three-time All-Star and 2014 AL Rookie of the Year is a .292 career hitter in the majors with 243 homers, 863 RBIs and an .860 OPS.

The Astros announced the signing. Abreu was scheduled to be introduced in a news conference at Minute Maid Park.

He would get a $200,000 for winning an MVP award, $175,000 for finishing second in the voting, $150,000 for third, $125,000 for fourth and $100,000 for fifth. Abreu also would get $100,000 for earning World Series MVP and $75,000 for League Championship Series MVP, $75,000 for making the All-Star team and $75,000 for winning a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger.

Abreu gets a hotel suite on road trips and the right to buy a luxury suite for all Astros home games.